Paula Wallace: Lessons Learned From 40 Years as an Entrepreneur

Oct 18 2017

by Dominique Paye

The Southern Coterie blog: "Paula Wallace: Four Lessons from 40 Years as an Entrepreneur"

Recently, Paula Wallace, President and Founder of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) shared with our Retreat attendees four lessons learned during her 40 years as an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneur Lesson No. 1—Improvise!

If you’ve ever performed improvisational comedy, you know the single most important rule of improv is Yes-And. What this means is, in any situation … agree with what your partner says and then add something of your own.

Entrepreneur Lesson No. 2—Treasure your independence.

When we first started SCAD, we didn’t have a library … we were a new college, after all. The problem was, we had no money, no donors, no endowment. Other institutions had millions of dollars but, we had something others didn’t have. We had our youth. We were free from the conventions of orthodoxy. SCAD now operates four university libraries on three continents housing more than 400,000 books.

Entrepreneur Lesson No. 3—Embrace being an outsider.

Back then, it was our independence of spirit that helped us seek out a library from the four corners of the map. We were outsiders. That was our secret weapon. We didn’t know that you weren’t supposed to create an art college and use the word “careers” in the mission. Well, today, we have a 98 percent graduate employment rate … that’s a lot of careers!

Entrepreneur Lesson No. 4—To invent your future, look to your history. 

Your best ideas are already inside you. When it was time to create SCAD, I looked into my past, and what I saw was an elementary educator. I recently discovered notes I made when I was a teacher preparing a new gifted program at Warren T. Jackson Elementary School in Atlanta more than 40 years ago. They are exactly what we do at SCAD today, albeit on a collegiate level, of course.

Bonus Lesson! Cherish those around you. 

Never forget to cherish those who invent with you. Today’s entrepreneurs cannot rely solely on themselves, no matter how innovative their ideas, which is one reason we created the SCAD Collaborative Learning Center: a partnership triptych, connecting students, faculty, and businesses.


What lessons would you add from your tenure as an entrepreneur? Let us know in the comments!


Dominique Paye View More Blog Posts from this Author

Dominique Paye is a marketing strategist and project manager. Since graduating from Washington & Lee University, she has managed projects across a variety of industries--from graphic design to interior design, real estate to government agencies--in D.C., California, Texas and Georgia.
Now located in Virginia, she works with creative entrepreneurs to market their businesses through social media and specialized content creation.
You can reach her at

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